In today’s gospel reading, we read the following “At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? How he entered the house of God, and they ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
In today’s sermon, I chose to speak about one sentence “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. These words spoken by Jesus, which were quoted from the Old Testament prophet Hosea, were in response to the Pharisees' criticism of His disciples, who were plucking grain on the Sabbath. To fully understand the significance of this statement, we must first consider the context in which Jesus spoke these words. At that time, the religious leaders of the day were rigidly focused on the outward observance of religious rituals and sacrifices. They placed great importance on following the letter of the law but often neglected the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and compassion. They were zealous about upholding the laws and regulations, including those about the observance of the Sabbath. They saw the actions of Jesus' disciples as a violation of the law and condemned them. However, Jesus quoted this sentence to say to Pharisees that the way they are fulfilling the law is wrong, and to clarify his idea he brought the examples from the Old Testament where the laws come from. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were complicating the law. In the Old Testament, we read the following about the Sabbath Law. – “You shall keep the Sabbath because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people.” (Exodus 31.14), so they took this sentence and try to force on the Jesus’ disciples. But they were not doing any work, they were just walking through the grain fields, and they felt hungry, so they started to pluck heads of grain and eat.
So, a lesson from today’s gospel reading is the following. In our daily life, wherever we go, it doesn’t matter if it’s a shopping store or a company, in the country that we live, in the church that we attend everywhere there is law, and usually, we all know the law. The fact is that we obey the law wherever we go, we live. But when it comes to religion, to God, to church, we start to change the law as we want, or as we feel comfortable. We start to complain about the law by saying “It’s impossible to fulfill this law”, “We must change the law” etc. But when we face the same problem in our job or our country, we start to obey without complaining. I’m sure when you were young, you all did wrong things as I did in my childhood, and after doing wrong things, I’m sure you were worried about telling your parents because of being punished and maybe losing their love. We do the same thing with God, without understanding the law we start to complain without asking God to enlighten us to understand his words and his law. And if we want to see the difference between world law and religious law is that when you quit your job because they changed the law and you didn’t like it, they will not come after you and check if you found another work. But in religion, God will continue to take care of you, without asking you or without you asking Him.
So, what does it mean for us today? Jesus’ message remains relevant and powerful, urging us to examine our heat and motives in our relationship with God and others. When we focus solely on religious practices without demonstrating mercy and compassion, we risk becoming like the Pharisees, whom Jesus frequently criticized for their hypocrisy. Instead, we are called to imitate Christ, who embodied the perfect balance of love for God and love for humanity.
Therefore, may we continually examine our hearts, ensuring that our religious practices flow from a heart of love, mercy, and compassion. Let us remember Jesus' profound words, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," and seek to live them out in our lives as a true reflection of our faith. May this statement serve as a guiding principle for our lives, shaping our attitudes, actions, and relationships. May our lives be living testimonies to the transformative power of God's mercy, drawing others closer to Him, and reflecting His love to the world. Amen